Jaya had an eventful philosophical reading month in November, the highlight being that she finally managed to read Bertrand Russell’s The History of Western Philosophy after two long years.
“Russell’s dispassionate approach should be appreciated. We have to remember that Russell tries to tell us about a time when rational thinking was not the accepted norm, even non-existant. He doesn’t look at the past reverentially, and this is hard to do even in this day and age. It’s when you look at ideas with so much clarity that you make all kinds of conenctions. For instance, ideas like how romanticism culminated in Hitler’s ideas of racial purity.”
This book is not ideal for novitiates of philosophy and if you do attempt to read it, you should arm yourself with encyclopedias or good old google search.
“The chapters of Bergson and Dewey didn’t work for me as contemporary rivalries or exchanges dominate there. I needed to go elsewhere to understand what these philosophers really said,” Jaya said.
Philosophical reading would be incomplete if you don’t touch the Indian and Oriental aspects of thought. However, there is no book of philosophy as lucid and comprehensible as Russell’s yet when it comes to understanding Indian Philosophy. Jaya picked up Seven systems of Indian Philosophy by Pt. Rajmani Tigunait. If you ignored the glorification of Indian culture, the book serves as a worthy introduction of the various systems of philosophies that exist in India. To understand more about Shiva,the ascetic divine force of Mount Kailasa, she picked up Dr. Devadutt Pattanaik’s book Shiva to Shankara.
No philosophy is complete without meandering into Buddhism and Jaya was interested to understand more about how the Buddha’s teachings were interpreted. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa brings up a worthy point of being careful of accumulating spiritual achievements, as that is no better than accumulating material things.
“It’s impossible to explain spirituality and in my quest for a better understanding of Buddha’s life, I even read a graphic novel that fell short,” Jaya said.
If you want to read more of Jaya’s opinions of books, you could hop over to Short Book Reviews at Worth a Read.